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Monday, November 30, 2020

Recognizing How Autistic Children Express Love

Love!
Image © Farid Iqbal Ibrahim | Flickr / Creative Commons
[image: The fingers of two silhouetted hands forming a heart shape.]


Ann Memmott
annsautism.blogspot.com

I want to talk about how autistic children might express love for their parents or carers. 

A well known book about 'five love languages' says that these languages are:

  1. Words of affection.
  2. Doing things for someone
  3. Giving gifts
  4. Quality time together
  5. Physical touch

It's certainly true that there may be a good few autistic young people who express their love for their closest family using one or more of those.

But there are other 'languages of love' in autistic communities:

1) "I love you, so I won't cause you a brain event by overloading you with eye contact and other social/sensory stuff."

But of course in the world of non-autistic people, this may be deemed rude, aloof, 'in their own world.'  A misunderstanding.

2. "I love you, so I will download information for you. Here it is. This is what I cherish, and so I am sharing it with you as an act of togetherness."

But of course in the world of non-autistic people, this may be deemed irrelevant, emotionless, inappropriate, boring.

3. "I love you, so I will give you space. I know that when I am upset, it helps me to have space and quiet, so I will offer this to you too."

But of course in the world of non-autistic people, this may be  interpreted as callous, unfeeling.

4. "I love you, so I will use a favourite cartoon, advert, book quote or similar, and repeat lines from that. You'll know that it's about people loving one another, about a happy family, about a wonderful relationship."

But, alas, so often people think it's meaningless repetition.

I'm quite often with parents who say to me, "My child will never love me. They'll never be able to tell me that they care about me. It's hearbreaking."

And there is their lovely autistic child, using all these autistic 'love languages,' sure that the parent recognises them.

One of the most important things autistic people can offer to parents is interpretation skills. Interpreting our culture, our way of communicating. Preventing misunderstandings. Helping families to learn one another's languages of love and caring.

So many parents grieve, thinking there is no love.

Look again.

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